Manchester United earned another victory to savour against Liverpool with Anthony Martial scoring on a dream debut to ensure a 3-1 triumph at Old Trafford.
The visitors looked to have set up a nervous finale when Christian Benteke’s spectacular strike replied to earlier goals by Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. However, Martial took centre stage by announcing his arrival with a superb solo third.
David De Gea made his return in goal but was a bystander for much of the first half as United dominated possession but, without injured skipper Wayne Rooney, failed to test Simon Mignolet.
The visiting keeper still looked edgy with Juan Mata intercepting an early clearance and presenting a great chance to lone striker Marouane Fellaini, who lifted it well off target. Unfortunately, that proved to be the only opening of the half with the Merseysiders content to hold United at bay.
Nathaniel Clyne mustered a rare attempt from long range on 19 minutes and a Memphis Depay cross was diverted behind Mignolet’s goal but there was little in the way of genuine excitement. For all the Reds’ dominance of the play, there was a sigh of relief when Benteke broke clear on goal and the offside flag was raised, even if the striker screwed his finish wide in any case.
As in the last game at Swansea City, the Reds started the second period with a goal. Half-time substitute Ashley Young, on for Memphis, was fouled by Clyne on the edge of the box and Mata rolled the free-kick to an unmarked Blind. The Dutch defender directed an unerring finish into the top corner of the net with Mignolet well beaten.
The crowd erupted and the players responded with a spell of concerted pressure but Bastian Schweinsteiger was unable to control the ball when in a dangerous position. Back came Liverpool and De Gea’s poor clearance eventually led to a Roberto Firmino cross that was well cleared by Chris Smalling. De Gea made a superb stop when clawing away a Danny Ings effort at the far post, following great chest control by the ex-Burnley striker, and, after Young sent a free-kick over the bar, Blind had to clear off the line when Martin Skrtel’s header bounced goalwards off Firmino.